Couple some days ago, there was a media flurry over the new Pope saying some things that wishful minds construed as "liberal." Myself, I went and read the transcript and thought, "well, that certainly seems like a nice bit, from a certain point of view. And yet..."
And yet, I was raised Catholic. So I know a bit of this language. And I wasn't ready to buy in.
Lo and behold, Il Papa has excommunicated a priest. And as near as anyone can tell, that would be because he jumped on the liberal pope bandwagon, and came out in favor of gay rights and women in the priesthood.
Hehehehe...seriously? By a show of hands, who thought the Church was going to be a force for good in the future? Who thought there was actually going to be a pope that favored human freedom over articles of faith? Seriously?
Oh, does that seem harsh? Let's step back and look at this from a Catholic point of view.
Undoubtedly the Church cannot (nor does it wish to) oppose any obstacle to the internal relations of the soul with God; she even implores God to give the grace of repentance to the excommunicated. The rites of the Church, nevertheless, are always the providential and regular channel through which Divine grace is conveyed to Christians; exclusion from such rites, especially from the sacraments, entails therefore regularly the privation of this grace, to whose sources the excommunicated person has no longer access.
—"Excommunication", The Catholic Encyclopedia
That, to be clear, is a piece of a much longer article. But the section it's taken from is called "Excommunication not only external." Here's what that means, in context:
At any rate, in the first centuries excommunication is not regarded as a simple external measure; it reaches the soul and the conscience. It is not merely the severing of the outward bond which holds the individual to his place in the Church; it severs also the internal bond, and the sentence pronounced on earth is ratified in heaven. It is the spiritual sword, the heaviest penalty that the Church can inflict (see the patristic texts quoted in the Decree of Gratian, cc. xxxi, xxxii, xxxiii, C. xi, q. iii).Yeah, that's right. It "severs the internal bond." Translation of the above two sections, "we'd really like to not prevent you from getting to heaven, and we hope God's feeling friendly when your time comes, but the only way to heaven is through us. And you can't go through us, bub."
Now, the pope can take it back, but only if the priest in question retracts his views and agrees not to deviate from the party line in the future.
Still burning from the above bit about a church that isn't going to be a force for good? Welp, let's look at this flatly.
The pope excommunicated a priest for being in favor of gay rights. Not defrocked him, which I could've understood, the guy was (sadly) off the reservation. No, he excommunicated him. As in, "play nice or no heaven for you unless God's feeling fantastic that day."
What? No, please. Go read that whole article. The path to heaven, in Catholicism, is through the sacraments. If you don't have them, you don't get in. And if you're excommunicated, you don't get the sacraments. So yeah. If you like the gays, the pope can and will throw you out of the "sole path" to heaven.
But that'll never happen, right? I mean, not as a general thing. Well of course not. If the Pope excommunicated everyone that was out of line, there'd be less than a million Catholics, tops.
So, nah, nothing to worry about. Just the Pope laying down the law. Which, you know, means denying a person the path to heaven to make a point. But hey, that's not...I mean...well, no, there's no good way to look at this.
Why is there no good way to look at this? Take a gander over this. Yes, it's Wikipedia. No, I give no craps, follow their sources yourself. Read carefully...nope, you see excommunication nowhere in there. A priest can sexually abuse a child and he will be defrocked. A priest who says, "let's maybe be more ok with gay people" gets excommunicated. Yeah, being ok with gay people is worse than molesting kids. Not even actually being gay. Just saying that maybe the church could maybe be better to gay people.
We're looking at a few possibilities, here, but the bottom line is that the Pope is ok with kicking someone to the curb of the afterlife for being in favor of gay people and women in the priesthood. Now, it could be because the pope really believes that's what's best, or because he needed to make a point, or because business as usual.
Basically, the pope is being pretty clear: "reform" and "renewal" have nothing to do with actually reaching out to people, or helping them. It's about image and internal organization.
When the pope talks about a "positive message" he's talking about "let's focus on the things that aren't controversial in our message." He's not changing the message, he just wants Catholics to stop digging the Church into a hole they can't climb out of.
And by "can't climb out of" I mean, "can't get new members in the face of a youth that is increasingly less understanding of dogmatic thinking that is counter to actually treating people as people." Or "is losing the ability to affect the world because people won't listen to an organization that claims to stand for hope and love while spewing negativity."
So at the end of all this, the Church has no plans to actually change anything meaningful. The pope would just appreciate it if we could all start liking the Church more without doing anything to make the Church more Christ-like.
Yep. Never going back. Think Frankie'd formally kick me out if I asked nicely? Cause at this point, I'm going to start sending gift baskets to people who get excommunicated.
With big ol' "Congratulations" cards in them.